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Hawaii State Holidays: Laws and Requirements for Employers

9 min read

Understanding the specific requirements and obligations associated with Hawaii’s state holiday and leave laws is essential for fostering a harmonious work environment and complying with legal standards. This article aims to provide employers with a comprehensive overview of the laws governing Hawaii state holidays. We will also offer valuable insights into the intricacies of holiday pay, employee entitlements, and leave and labor laws. Armed with this information, employers can equip themselves with the knowledge and tools necessary to uphold labor standards, promote employee well-being, and cultivate a culture of compliance within their organizations.

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Hawaii Federal Holidays

Hawaii, as a US state, observes the federal holidays each year. These national holidays hold significant cultural and historical importance. Employees in Hawaii often receive days off on these occasions, allowing for valuable time with family and friends.

Specifically, as with other US states including Ohio, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Florida, Hawaii observes the following 10 federal holidays:

  • New Year’s Day: 1st day in January
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: 3rd Monday in January
  • Presidents’ Day: 3rd Monday in February
  • Memorial Day: Last Monday in May
  • Juneteenth: June 19th
  • Independence Day: July 4th
  • Labor Day: 1st Monday in September
  • Veterans’ Day: 11th day in November
  • Thanksgiving Day: 4th Thursday in November
  • Christmas: December 25th

However, unlike many other US states, Hawaii does not observe Columbus Day as a federal holiday. In 1988, Hawaii replaced Columbus Day with Discoverers’ Day, which is not a state holiday. This was done to honor all discoverers, including Pacific and Polynesian navigators. Other states that do not observe Columbus Day as a federal holiday include Alaska, Iowa, Louisiana, and Maine. However, Hawaii is the only state to observe Discoverers’ Day as a holiday.

Hawaii State Holidays

Aside from the US federal holidays, Hawaii also observes a number of state-specific holidays. These holidays celebrate the state’s unique history, culture, and people.

Here’s everything you need to know about the list of Hawaii state holidays.

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day is a Hawaii state holiday that commemorates the life and legacy of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole. Born on March 26, 1871 on the island of Kauai, Prince Kuhio was a prince of the reigning House of Kalakaua.

Kalanianaole played a significant role in Hawaiian history, particularly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, advocating for the rights and welfare of the native Hawaiian people. Known for his efforts to preserve and perpetuate the Hawaiian cultural heritage, he was instrumental in the fight for Hawaiian sovereignty and the protection of Hawaiian lands.

Prince Kuhio was also a delegate to the United States Congress, serving as a non-voting delegate. He played a pivotal role in the passage of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act in 1921, which established a land trust for native Hawaiians. This act granted homestead leases to eligible individuals of at least 50% Hawaiian blood.

In honor of his contributions, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day is celebrated annually on his birthday. It is a day for the people of Hawaii to reflect on his advocacy for native Hawaiian rights and his dedication to preserving the cultural heritage of the islands.

Good Friday

Good Friday is another important date on the Hawaii state calendar. The state regards this day as a public holiday. As such, many Christians in the state observe the day with special church services and reflection on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Some people also fast or abstain from certain activities on Good Friday.

Government offices and many private businesses in Hawaii are closed on Good Friday. However, some businesses, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores, remain open, albeit with reduced hours. This is because Hawaii is a tourist destination, and there is still a demand for goods and services on Good Friday. Additionally, some people choose to spend Good Friday shopping or doing other activities outside the home.

Overall, Good Friday is a day of reflection and observance for many Christians in Hawaii.

King Kamehameha Day

King Kamehameha Day is another important Hawaii state holiday, celebrated annually on June 11. It honors King Kamehameha I, also known as Kamehameha the Great, who was the founder and first ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii. King Kamehameha played a crucial role in the unification of the Hawaiian Islands under one kingdom, establishing the unified Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810.

The holiday holds historical and cultural significance for the people of Hawaii, as King Kamehameha is revered for his leadership, strategic prowess, and contributions to the establishment of a unified Hawaiian kingdom. He is remembered for his strength and diplomacy, as well as his efforts to preserve the Hawaiian way of life and promote peace and prosperity throughout the islands.

On this day, various celebrations, events, and festivities take place across the state, including parades, cultural performances, traditional Hawaiian ceremonies, and the display of floral parades and floats. These celebrations often include hula performances, traditional Hawaiian crafts, music, and other activities that highlight the rich cultural heritage of the Hawaiian Islands. Floral parades featuring statues of King Kamehameha are also a common sight during the festivities.

The holiday serves as a reminder of the rich history and cultural heritage of Hawaii. It is a time for the people of Hawaii to come together and celebrate their shared heritage and the enduring legacy of their revered king.

Statehood Day

Statehood Day is an annual public holiday commemorating the day Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state of the United States. It is celebrated on the third Friday in August, recognizing the significant historical event that took place on August 21, 1959, when Hawaii officially became a state.

The road to Hawaii’s statehood was marked by a long and complex process that involved several attempts and debates spanning many decades. Despite being recognized as a territory of the United States since 1898, Hawaii’s journey to statehood was not without its challenges and controversies. Issues such as the impact of World War II and the geopolitical importance of the Hawaiian Islands played a role in the discussions surrounding statehood.

Statehood Day is typically celebrated with parades, cultural festivals, and educational programs that highlight the unique history, culture, and traditions of Hawaii. It is a time for the people of Hawaii to reflect on the state’s diverse heritage and the contributions of its multicultural communities to the overall fabric of the United States.

Ultimately, the holiday serves as an opportunity for Hawaiians to celebrate their identity as American citizens while also honoring the distinct Hawaiian culture and history that continues to thrive within the broader American mosaic.

Discoverers’ Day

Discoverers’ Day is a Hawaii state holiday that recognizes the Polynesian discoverers of the Hawaiian Islands. It is celebrated on the second Monday in October each year. The holiday serves to honor and acknowledge the original Polynesian voyagers who discovered and settled in the Hawaiian archipelago.

The observance of Discoverers’ Day is intended to pay tribute to the ancient Polynesian navigators and their exceptional seafaring skills, which enabled them to traverse great distances and establish thriving communities in the Hawaiian Islands. The holiday emphasizes the cultural and historical significance of the Polynesian heritage and the profound impact of their settlement on the development of Hawaiian society and culture.

In recent years, there has been some debate and discussion regarding the renaming of Discoverers’ Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day to better recognize and honor the Native Hawaiian people and their enduring contributions to the cultural fabric of Hawaii. This change has been advocated by those seeking to acknowledge the impact of colonization and to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the indigenous communities’ history, traditions, and resilience.

Celebrations on Discoverers’ Day often include cultural events, educational programs, and festivities that highlight the rich Polynesian heritage and the significant role of the original voyagers in shaping the unique cultural identity of Hawaii.

General Election Day

Finally, Hawaii observes General Election Day as a state holiday, giving all registered voters the day off to cast their ballots. Only a handful of other states have designated Election Day as a holiday.

So, why is Election Day a holiday in Hawaii?

Essentially, there are several reasons for this. First, it is a way to encourage voter turnout. By giving voters the day off, Hawaii makes it easier for people to get to the polls. Second, it is a way to show the importance of civic participation. By making Election Day a holiday, Hawaii is sending the message that voting is a right and a responsibility.

On Election Day, Hawaii’s voter service centers are open for in-person voting, same-day registration, and accessible voting. Voters can also return their mail-in ballots to any voter service center or ballot drop box.

Hawaii’s observance of General Election Day as a state holiday is a testament to the state’s commitment to democracy and civic participation. It is a unique practice that many other states should consider adopting.

Do Employers in Hawaii Have to Offer Holiday Pay?

Vacation leave requirements in Hawaii vary depending on whether an employer is public or private. Local ordinances, collective bargaining agreements, and employment contracts also impose specific requirements or guidelines.

Here’s a breakdown of everything that employers need to be aware of.

Public Sector Employees in Hawaii

A public sector employee’s right to leave in Hawaii depends on a number of factors. This includes an employee’s union contract, the Hawaii State Personnel Board (SPB), and the Hawaii Family Leave Law (HFLL):

  • Union Contracts. Many public sector employees in Hawaii are members of a union. Union contracts typically include provisions for paid time off, sick leave, and other types of paid and unpaid time off.
  • Hawaii State Personnel Board (SPB). The SPB sets leave policies for state employees who are not covered by a union contract. SPB leave policies include provisions for paid vacation leave, sick leave, family leave, and other types of leave.
  • Hawaii Family Leave Law (HFLL). The HFLL requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide eligible employees with up to four weeks of unpaid family leave per year. Employees are eligible for HFLL if they have worked for the employer for at least one year and have worked at least 1,500 hours in the previous 12 months. Family leave can be used for a variety of purposes, such as caring for a new child (parental leave), caring for a sick family member, or taking leave due to a serious illness.

In addition to the above, state employers in Hawaii must offer paid leave for all Hawaii state holidays.

Private Sector Employees in Hawaii

Private employers in Hawaii do not have to offer paid vacation leave to their employees. However, many private employers do offer paid vacation leave as a benefit. If a private employer does offer paid vacation leave, they must comply with the terms of their policy.

Generally speaking, despite there being no legal requirement, many private employers choose to offer time off as a benefit to their employees. This is because it can be a great way to attract and retain employees. Many employers also offer additional leave benefits including unlimited PTO, personal time off, floating holidays, VTO, and flexible time off. Employers in Hawaii are also generally free to design their own vacation accrual, vacation payout, and PTO carry-over systems.

Additional Leave and Labor Laws in the State of Hawaii

Hawaii has a number of leave and labor laws in place to protect workers and their families:

  • Minimum Wage. The minimum wage in Hawaii is $12 per hour for most workers. However, there are some exceptions, such as tipped workers and employees of small businesses. The minimum wage in Hawaii is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
  • Overtime Pay. Most workers in Hawaii must receive overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Employers must calculate overtime pay at 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. However, there are some exceptions to overtime pay, such as salaried employees and certain types of executives.
  • Sick Leave. Employers in Hawaii do not have to provide sick leave to their employees. However, if an employer does offer sick leave, they must comply with the terms of their policy.
  • Military Leave. Employers in Hawaii must offer unpaid military leave to employees on active duty.
  • Jury Duty Leave. Employers in Hawaii must offer paid jury duty leave to employees who serve on a jury.
  • Voting Leave. Employers in Hawaii must offer paid voting leave to employees who need time to vote in an election.
  • Unemployment Insurance. Finally, if an employer lays off an employee they may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. These unemployment insurance benefits can help workers replace a portion of their lost income while they are looking for a new job.

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Manage Hawaii State Holidays Efficiently with Factorial

Hawaii has numerous state holidays, which can often be a challenge for businesses to manage. This is especially true when it comes to scheduling and payroll. Factorial is a cloud-based HR platform that can help businesses in Hawaii manage all types of time off requests, including Hawaii state holidays.

With Factorial, businesses can:

  • Centralize all employee leave data in one place. Firstly, Factorial provides a centralized leave management system for storing all employee leave data. This includes vacation days, sick days, and holiday leave. This makes it easy for businesses to track and manage paid time off and unpaid leave and ensure that employees are taking their allotted leave.
  • Set up automatic leave accruals. Secondly, Businesses can configure Factorial to automatically accrue leave for employees based on their employment status and length of service. This saves businesses time and hassle, and it ensures that employees are always up to date on their leave balances.
  • Create and manage custom leave policies. Thirdly, Factorial allows businesses to create and manage custom leave policies. This includes setting different leave accrual rates for different employee groups, defining blackout dates, and specifying approval workflows.
  • Generate accurate payroll reports. Finally, Factorial generates accurate payroll reports that take into account employee leave balances and holiday pay. This helps businesses pay employees correctly and on time.

Overall, Factorial is a powerful tool that can help businesses manage Hawaii state holidays efficiently. By centralizing employee leave data, automating leave accruals, creating custom leave policies, and generating accurate payroll reports, Factorial can help businesses save time and money, and ensure that their employees are always happy and productive.

Cat Symonds is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. Originally from Wales, she studied Spanish and French at the University of Swansea before moving to Barcelona where she lived and worked for 12 years. She has since relocated back to Wales where she continues to build her business, working with clients in Spain and the UK.  Cat is the founder of The Content CAT: Content And Translation, providing content development and translation services to her clients. She specializes in corporate blogs, articles of interest, ghostwriting, and translation (SP/FR/CA into EN), collaborating with a range of companies from a variety of business sectors. She also offers services to a number of NGOs including Oxfam Intermón, UNICEF, and Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership.  For more information or to contact Cat visit her website ( or send her a message through LinkedIn.

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